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The AC

Still, since 1998, according to the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, the median age of visitors to the city has dropped from 55 to 52, and signs are that it's continuing to creep downward. More are coming by car as well, resulting in fewer Bus People, those grumpy oldsters who file off the shuttles and head home eight hours later.

All told, more than 33 million people stopped by last year, with three out of four hailing from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. Oddly enough, two-thirds of all visitors were female. "We're attracting all sorts these days," says the ACCVA's Susan Ricciardi. "It's amazing how diverse the crowd has become."

Atlantic City is cleaning up its act, and resorts are drawing younger crowds with new public spaces, such as the Tropicana's Fiesta Plaza in the Quarter. (Tropicana)

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For the moment, the Quarter is the big dog, but there's more to come.

• The Walk, a blocks-long shopping center that looks more Mayberry than mall, has been a rousing success -- and an effective welcome mat for those exiting the Atlantic City Expressway. Plans are underway to move its neighbor, a tacky faux lighthouse built in 1997, and expand the attraction.

• The $175 million Pier at Caesars, which is replacing the mall-cum-eyesore built to resemble a cruise ship plowing onto the beach, will be connected by a glass walkway to the casino and will house a wedding chapel, nine restaurants and high-end retailers, such as Hugo Boss, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Completion is set for next year.

• Work continues at the Showboat -- a Nawlins-themed resort and longtime favorite of older visitors -- on its new House of Blues, the 10th in the chain. The project, costing $65 million, includes a restaurant, music hall, beach bar and casino and is scheduled to open around July 4. In May 2003, the hotel unveiled the 544-room Orleans Tower.

• Borgata has broken ground on a multi-phase expansion, including rooms and condos, restaurants, stores and gaming and convention space. Construction is expected to end in 2007.

• Nikki Beach, a multitiered bar/restaurant/lounge that dubs itself "The Sexiest Place on Earth," opens at Resorts on May 2. In July 2004, the resort added the 399-room Rendezvous Tower, along with 14,000 square feet of gaming space and a spiffy new art-deco look.

• On Feb. 18, Harrah's started popping corks in the plush Xhibition, a circular lounge with 50-inch plasma TVs plopped in the center of the casino floor. That's unique in AC, but these days, nothing stays unique for long.

Hang around the Quarter long enough on a weekend and you can almost set your watch by the level of activity. Mornings are quiet, as partiers sleep it off. Afternoons belong to the older set, lunchers, shoppers and gawkers -- especially the gawkers.

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